The North Carolina Senate passed HB 589, one of the most restrictive voter ID measures in the nation. It permits only permits 7 kinds of ID – such as a valid in-state DMV issued driver’s license or a state-issued non-license ID card, as well as a passport – but does not permit student IDs or government employee IDs. In addition, it significantly cuts early voting days and does away with same-day registration, among other restrictions.
This comes just a month after the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that required localities with histories of discriminatory voting laws to seek preclearance by the federal government before altering their election laws. Even before the Supreme Court invalidated part of the VRA, the GOP-led legislature in North Carolina had its eyes set upon changing the voting requirements by initially introducing HB 589 in the House back in April.
Supporters of the bill say that the requirements are common-sense measures to maintain electoral integrity and prevent voter fraud.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections, there were only two cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation that were found and referred for prosecution between 2000 and 2010. Additionally, a five-year crackdown by the Department of Justice under the Bush administration found little evidence of organized voter fraud.
Opponents of the legislation maintain that the bill will make voting more difficult for Latinos, blacks and other minorities.
Juliana Cabrales, the North Carolina Regional Program Manager of Civic Engagement for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), told NBC Latino, “Without a doubt, this bill will have a big impact on our community. We are troubled to see this legislation move forward, adding additional barriers for voters. This will not only impact Latinos, but other underrepresented groups as well.”
Cabrales explained that for many Latinos the requirement to produce additional documentation for a birth certificate or a naturalization certificate can be costly because if the paperwork is not easily available, these voters would have to request documentation and pay for copies from the state. Paying for more documentation poses an additional burden on a population that is not as affluent. She also said that not being completely fluent in English compounds the problem for some Latino voters who will have to navigate the bureaucracy to obtain the proper identification.
Supporters of HB 589 say that the bill is a common sense measure and that it’s overwhelmingly popular with voters. They also assert that the bill will allow any North Carolina citizen who doesn’t have a valid photo ID the ability to obtain one at no cost to the voter at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
In a statement, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “A measure that restores confidence in our election process and ensures voters are who they say they are is a no-brainer – and nearly three-quarters of North Carolinians agree. This bill will bring North Carolina in line with the majority of other states that already require voter ID.”
The change in the voting laws comes at a time when Latinos are growing in North Carolina. In the past decade, the Latino population in the Tar Heel state nearly doubled. According to Democracy North Carolina, there are about 115,000 registered Hispanic voters. These voters tend to be younger and lean Democratic, a group that would be more impacted by the voter ID law.
Juliana Cabrales of NALEO indicated that if the bill becomes enacted, her organization will work to fight the measure and seek to educate the community about any changes to the way elections are conducted in the state.
Adriana Maestas is a senior contributing editor at Politic365 and one of the co-founders of the DailyGrito.com. She resides in California.